“The yo-yo in its simplest form is an object consisting of an axle connected to two disks, and a length of twine looped around the axle, similar to a slender spool. It is played by holding the free end of the string (usually by inserting one finger in a slip knot) allowing gravity or the force of a throw to spin the yo-yo and unwind the string (similar to how a pullstring works), then allowing the yo-yo to wind itself back to one’s hand, exploiting its spin (and the associated rotational energy).” (Wikipedia)
Do you ever feel like a yo-yo? Over the past several weeks, I have felt a tremendous shift in my life. Specifically, I have noticed a change in my perception of myself and of what I am capable of. I recently returned from a trip to Arizona, where I traveled with a large group of friends and family. Arizona was absolutely beautiful; I woke up every morning to a cascade of colors: red rocks, blue sky, shiny quartz poking through the red dust that covers the town of Sedona. I was surrounded by beauty and love and returning to my life in Chicago was disarming.
Reintegration was more difficult than I had imagined. I realized quickly that I needed to make a concerted effort to integrate more joy and beauty into “the everyday.” This realization carried with it a great deal of action which resulted in exciting opportunities- lots of them- all at once! Even with the excitement, the ferocity with which the opportunities arose left me feeling overwhelmed. I felt like a yo-yo, like “my spin” was being impacted by excitement and opportunity, swept up by a hasty force that felt intense, almost esoteric.
As the dust begins to settle and I feel more at home in my shifting perception of myself, I am left thinking about the forces we are confronted with, over which we have very little control.
Aristotle wrote a great deal about entelechy, actuality, the vital force that directs an organism towards self-fulfillment. As viscerally as I feel the movement of the force, my rational mind fumbles with these concepts. The concepts of “vital force” and “universal provision” seem really abstract to me but experience is difficult to ignore. This seems greater than cause and effect.
In Aristotle’s depiction of entelechy, the “acorn and oak tree example” is widely used:
While the acorn looks and feels like an acorn does (hard, sturdy, round) it is capable of moving, growing and bending. The acorn has the potential to become an oak tree but in order to shift from acorn to oak tree, there is a process of actualization and realization of its essential nature. It’s this vital force that moves the acorn along and encourages it’s growth. the growth is sometimes slow and steady and sometimes rapid and forceful.
The same can be said for a human embryo or a popcorn kernel. The process of self actualization, growth and change occurs in all living things and takes shape differently depending on the object undergoing transformation.
There are always forces at play in our lives that impact our sense of stability and balance. Sometimes these forces come from within (our thoughts, emotions, physical sensations) and sometimes they come from without (nature, other people, circumstances, etc.)
When I begin to feel as though I’m spinning out of control, whether from my own internal process or external processes, my practice emphasizes balancing Vata in order to return to feeling grounded and steady. In Ayurveda, Vata governs movement and change in our mind and our body. The elements are air and ether.
My ayurvedic dosha (constitution) is primarily Kapha, meaning inertia is where I party. My Pitta traits fuel my drive and forward movement but I am very rarely aggravated by Vata energy. In order to pacify the Vata aggravation, I developed the below mini sequence “yo-yo yoga” to reconnect with the earth. My favorite grounding posture is samastitihi (“equal standing pose”– essentially mountain pose with hands at heart center.)
Yo-yo yoga: a sequence for balancing vata
- Vajrasana (thrunderbolt) breath awareness and body scan for tension and holding of the breath
- Table top to cat/cow with dynamic movement (sift hips back and side to side)
- Balasana (childs pose)
- table top
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)
- stand at top of mat
- samastitihi (set intention for practice- in this case, my intention was to re-root and reconnect) I like to spend several breaths (sometimes several minutes) in this pose to find the equal footing and balance that feels just right– my body, solid as a tree trunk, my belly strong, my shoulders relaxed, my face and my jaw at ease, hands in prayer at heart center.
- Uttanasana (forward fold)
- Arda uttanasana (half way lift)
- plank– gently lower down onto belly
- Bhujangasana (cobra)
- table top
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)… kick right leg high, step through to lunge
- Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I)
- Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)
- Utthita Parsvakonasana (extended side angle)
- Trikonasana (triangle)
- star pose
- —-repeat italicized standing postures on the left
- return to star pose
- Prasarita Padottanasana (wide legged forward fold)
- slowly rise
- Vrksasana (tree pose)
- viparita karani (literally: inverted action; a.k.a. legs up the wall)
- Sukhasana (easy pose)
- Paschimottanasana (seated forward fold)
- Baddha konasana (bound angle pose)
- Supta baddha konasana (reclining bound angle pose)
- Jathara Parivartanasana supine twist
- Happy baby
- savasana (extended!)
pranayama: 3 part breath. I prefer to practice this lying down, supported by a bolster. As I practice, not only do I attend to my abdomen, mid and upper chest, but I also incorporate my pelvic area. I learned this simple yet powerful technique from the fabulous Brooks Hall of Root Wisdom Yoga.
*a note on beauty… I didn’t have to look hard. Once I really opened my eyes, I found cascading colors everywhere. Sedona is beautiful and so is Chicago.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” -Anaïs Nin